Sexual fling threatens work relationship

WORKING WOMAN

December 05, 1993|By Niki Scott | Niki Scott,Universal Press Syndicate

They worked together, laughed together, commiserated with each other over failed love affairs, non-existent raises, impossible work loads and the lizard for whom they work.

He was her buddy, her confidant, her colleague, her friend -- someone she could meet for a drink after work; someone safe and reliable.

But a month ago, after too many TGIF toasts at the local hangout, they went somewhere to dance (and drink). Then they went somewhere for dinner. Then they went back to his place -- and to his bed.

This is hardly a new story, but the young woman who wrote from Toledo, Ohio, this week wouldn't believe it if we told her so. She thinks no one else has ever been "so dumb or impulsive."

In a letter filled with regret and self-recrimination, she wrote: "I can't believe we let this happen! We've ruined a wonderful friendship.`

"I can't even say we were good in bed together. The next morning we could hardly look at each other, we were so uncomfortable and embarrassed."

People who spend the major portion of their days together often find themselves attracted to one another. While this attraction often stops with a platonic friendship, it sometimes leads to a dating relationship, and sometimes to an unplanned sexual fling.

"At least we practiced 'safe sex,' " wrote the woman from Toledo, "but that's the only thing about this experience that was safe. I don't even know if we're going to be able to continue to work together."

The first thing she'll have to do is decide exactly how she feels about this man now that there's a sexual episode in their relationship. Does she want him to remain simply a colleague and friend, or does she want a more lasting, intimate relationship to develop from this fumbling, reckless encounter?

She's already made a decision. "I don't want a love affair with anybody right now," she wrote. "I don't want to be distracted. I don't want to lose a perfectly wonderful working relationship, although I fear I may already have.

"What I want is to get our old relationship back, so that maybe by next year -- or the year 2000 -- that night will be something we can laugh over."

Sounds as if she'd do well to tell him quickly -- before things go any further -- that she wants to put "that night" behind them.

She'll have to be firm about it, while being as tactful as possible, and make it as clear as she can that her reasons for not wanting a continuing sexual relationship with him have to do with her agenda and priorities, not with him.

Most people appreciate candor and clarity, especially if they're served with generous helpings of sensitivity and tact, and most people respect firmness and decisiveness, even if they don't particularly like what they're hearing.

A combination of tact, decisiveness and firmness, swiftly applied, along with a gentle sense of humor and a firm grasp of how important -- or unimportant -- such an occurrence really is in the overall scheme of things usually is the best way to smooth this kind of awkward situation.

Finally, it's important that this woman forgive herself. What happened was certainly not a smart move, but it's done, and raking herself over the coals about it will just make the incident seem more important than it is and undermine her self-confidence and peace of mind.

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